£1499 › Back road en­durance ma­chine that’s ready for all sea­sons

Cycling Plus - - ROAD TEST -

Here’s a short list of things we ap­pre­ci­ate at Cy­cling Plus: bis­cuits dipped in tea, the re­as­sur­ing hiss of an ex­pen­sive tyre on pris­tine tar­mac, and bikes that ar­rive fit­ted with mud­guards. The Fo­cus Par­alane is the last of these – a fat tyred, disc brake-equipped bike with all-road ver­sa­til­ity (don’t call it a gravel bike) and all-weather equip­ment.

Launched last June, the Par­alane offers a more re­laxed ap­proach to life than its sta­ble­mates, the racy Cayo and Izalco Max. We’re test­ing the af­ford­able al­loy ver­sion that looks like a promis­ing can­di­date for Bri­tish com­mut­ing and big win­ter miles.

The Par­alane’s frame is in keep­ing with cur­rent trends in alu­minium, blend­ing com­plex tube pro­files for an op­ti­mal ride. The top-tube is par­tic­u­larly wide and flat, and along with an un­usu­ally slim seat­post (25.4mm!) and sim­i­larly flat­tened seat­stays, it’s clear that the fo­cus (ho ho) is on ver­ti­cal com­pli­ance.

The Par­alane’s spec is de­cid­edly com­pe­tent if not overly gen­er­ous for the money. Shi­mano 105 bits take care of shift­ing, while the hy­draulics come cour­tesy of groupsete­quiv­a­lent RS505 levers with match­ing brakes. The hoods are big and lumpy, but most of our testers find them quite com­fort­able and the brak­ing is be­yond re­proach in all weath­ers. In-house fin­ish­ing kit gets the job done, and the DT Swis­s­rimmed wheels are rea­son­ably heavy but in­of­fen­sive, their 18mm in­ter­nal width use­ful if not im­pres­sive. They’re an­chored in place with 12mm thru-axles, which use Fo­cus’s proven RAT (Rapid Axle Tech­nol­ogy) quick-re­lease stan­dard.

By virtue of a rel­a­tively up­right po­si­tion (this 54cm bike has 375mm of reach and a huge 582mm of stack) and not in­con­sid­er­able mass, the Par­alane is not a bike for high­speed, com­pet­i­tive en­deav­ours.

The Par­alane’s spec is de­cid­edly com­pe­tent if not overly gen­er­ous for the money

Such us­age would rather miss the point, and for eat­ing up long miles it nails the for­mula per­fectly. While the sad­dle is slightly too soft to be truly sup­port­ive, both ends of the bike smooth out bro­ken road sur­faces, helped by the 28mm tyres. There’s room for 32s if you want to go prop­erly plush, or even 35s if you ditch the mud­guards. With the tall front end of­fer­ing re­as­sur­ance when the go­ing gets bumpy, the Par­alane is con­tent to stray off paved sur­faces and along the odd canal tow­path or dirt road, and big­ger rub­ber could ex­pand your hori­zons even more.

One down­side is that the full mud­guards, surely one of this bike’s big­gest sell­ing points, aren’t as good as they could be. Sup­plied by a com­pany called Cu­rana, they’re made of metal and their one-piece stays are swal­lowed by ded­i­cated holes in the dropouts, and held in with grub screws. (There are stan­dard threaded bosses for a rack/ guards as well.) We ap­pre­ci­ate a dry bum and feet, but the guards are quite flex­i­ble and the rear has a ten­dency to slap against the seat-tube over big­ger bumps. We’d prob­a­bly de­vise a more se­cure bracket at the seat­stay bridge to pro­vide a bet­ter an­chor­ing point.

This one fault aside, we like the Par­alane AL. Its ride qual­ity is well rounded, and smart de­sign along with sen­si­ble gear­ing means it climbs bet­ter than its weight sug­gests. With sorted mud­guards it would be a prime pick for year-round com­mut­ing and long win­ter rides.

Be­low Flat­tened seat­stays are on trend for modern alu­minium frame de­sign Bot­tom The hoods may be big but we still found them com­fort­able

The Par­alane is not a bike for high­speed, com­pet­i­tive en­deav­ours

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